Certain things are to be expected of Cerebral Ballzy’s debut album – a record that solidifies a relentless year of scumbag punk on the road. Count within them thrash, speed, puke, skating and a heightened sense of dumb-ass nihilism. It’s here where we’re meant to say how, in actual fact, these grot-rockers from Brooklyn’s bad end have recorded a complete curveball of a first album, but they really haven’t. ‘Cerebral Ballzy’ is 19 minutes long, consists of 12 songs called things like ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’ and ‘Drug Myself Dumb’, features field recordings of skateboards on pavement and has one speed: fast. Next we’re meant to say it’s these blinkered hardcore values that make it such a thrilling listen, and, well, it is.

The tunnel vision begins with ‘On The Run’, which in turn starts with singer Honor Titus slurring in his spoken bunged tone: They wanna restrain me/They wanna punish and torture me/I’m just a young kid doing what I want/I don’t wanna be like them/I find myself constantly confronted by their failures. ‘They’, it seems, are fuckers, and so Honor goads them to “catch me, if you can”, blurting, “I don’t wanna live with the consequences of being young and reckless!” while the rest of the band play Black Flag thrash 101. So far, so in debt to DC hardcore from the early ’80s, and that’s something that isn’t likely to change with the following ‘Office Rocker’ (jobs suck, dude), ‘Insufficient Fare’ (hopping the barriers on the subway rules), ‘Junkie For Her’ (actually a love song, of sorts, through which Honor “can’t get enough of her”) or anything else you’ll find here. But while Ballzy are forever likened to Bad Brains and Minor Threat for the lightning speed at which they play in your local toilet venue, on record, producer Joby J Ford (frontman of The Bronx) has notably slowed the pace. That ‘Cerebral Ballzy’ is still over in 19 minutes points more to how un-listenable and slap-dash the band can be live than how sluggish the tracks found here are, and by winding things down to ‘breakneck’ we can finally make out Honor’s give-a-shit, stoned lyric, which are key to just how youthful (yes, and dumb) Cerebral Ballzy sound.

It turns out that the band – while no collection of virtuosos – can really play too, which isn’t the kind of thing you find yourself thinking after you’ve seen them hammer out a live show in kettle-boiling time. Then, velocity precedes even the simple technicality of ‘Puke Song’’s one-string guitar solo (solos of any sort notably being extremely un-hardcore).

It has to be this that has allowed Cerebral Ballzy to cross over to the mainstream enough to have been booked to play this year’s Latitude Festival – an idyllic weekend of boxed wine and sandwiches made ‘edgy’ last year by a recently polished Horrors. When the band are retching over the organic hog roast and screaming ‘Don’t Look My Way’ at all the disapproving faces, though, it’ll serve as a reminder that while Cerebral Ballzy aren’t quite as stupid as they look, they remain as punk as they sound. Honed and more coherent, for the better.

By Stuart Stubbs

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